Employment history doesn't define your value.

I’m noticing that more and more people on LinkedIn and Twitter are replacing their profile synopsis with a simple list of previous companies where they have worked. Very similar to the Attention Deficit Disorder fashion of current movie trailers that blast a five-second trailer of the two-minute trailer. Instead of a thoughtful introduction, profiles now sport a list of previous employers, like a race car driver’s uniform covered in logos.

The problem with this seemingly clever use of limited character counts is that it reduces the value of people against the brands of the companies where they worked. And that’s if you’re lucky enough to work for a company that has a “household name.” I don’t know about you, but I’ve worked on phenomenal teams at companies that few people recognize. Secondly, it’s an indication that you tie your identity too close to your career, leading to bigger problems.

Some of you may remember when designers started to turn the skills portion of their resume into a visualization. I wrote about this years ago in “100% Clever, 0% Hired.”

“Photoshop: 85%,” makes 0% sense to me which is to say, none-at-all. And since when in the hell is Photoshop a skill? As I recall, the “percentages” started appearing around the time Nicolas Felton started to publish annual reports with visualized data on all facets of his life in 2004. A year or two later, young persons, fresh out of school, started trying to make their resumes stand out by visualizing their data, even when it meant making things up.

I have similar thoughts to this tactic of listing a string of previous companies in a profile. Am I supposed to be swept away in your brilliance because you collected a paycheck at these places? Or perhaps you are trying to impress us with your ability to get hired (Interviewing 100%)? Why are you further perpetuating the myth that just because you worked at [insert company name here] means you have better skills and can get to better outcomes?

Who are you? What defines you? Here’s a hint: It’s not where you work. And it’s most certainly not your career. Anyone who thinks differently is on not on the right path. If you want to sum up who you are, then focus on your values, principles, skills, and outcomes.

Years ago, I had an opportunity to meet Bob Baxley, a designer, and leader with decades of experience. He shared his story about prepping to re-enter the workplace after years on a self-imposed hiatus. At the time, Bob was asked to put together a portfolio to present as part of the interview process. Given where he was in his career, he focused on sharing his design principles and how that guided previous work and outcomes. That idea has always resonated with me because our principles, values, virtues, skills, and experiences make a better definition of who we are.

In a world where people can’t seem to communicate in words longer than two consonants, can we please stop trivializing our work and our value? Honestly, it doesn’t need any more help at the moment.